Israeli golfer Laetitia Beck.
(photo credit: MARK SIMS)
Laetitia Beck became the first Israeli golfer to qualify as a fully-fledged PGA or LPGA Tour player on Sunday night.
She had to work overtime to earn her 2015 LPGA Tour Card in Daytona Beach, Florida, finding herself in a seven person, three-hole aggregate, playoff following 90 holes of golf. Things still weren’t decided after the three holes so Beck and five other golfers went into sudden death for three spots.
Beck would ultimately secure her qualification when she sent her wedge from 132 yards to 18 feet and calmly sank the birdie putt to get out of the playoff and make Israeli sporting history.
"I try to not put any pressure on myself," said Beck, who advanced to the playoff after finishing the five initial rounds of the qualifying tournament at the Hills Course at 4-under par.
"When we were driving to the first playoff hole I was talking to the rules official and I asked him if even with the partial status if I would be considered an LPGA player and he said yes and I think that helped me a little. I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be."
Beck was among 20 players who earned membership through category 12 on the LPGA Tour priority list, meaning she will be a full-time player on tour next season.
Beck, who graduated from Duke University earlier this year, decided to turn professional after qualifying for the British Open in July. She had to come through two qualifying tournaments just to reach Daytona Beach.
Beck was born in Antwerp, Belgium, moving to Israel with her family when she was six years old.
Beck already won the Israeli Ladies Championships at the age of 12 and moved to the US when she was 14 to attend the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. She qualified for her first LPGA Tour event in August 2011, participating as an amateur in the Canadian Women's Open in Montreal.
"I don’t think I’m realizing it yet," Beck said. "Every time that I do something great when it happens it feels natural. I’m really excited. I’m sure that my family and friends in Israel are excited too so I’m happy for me and I’m happy for them."
The LPGA Tour will feature 33 tournaments in 15 countries in 2015.
The season tees off in Ocala, Florida from January 27-31 before moving on to the Bahamas and then Australia and will end with the November 19-22 CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Florida.
Thirteen new events have been added in the last four years, strengthening a tournament schedule that will also include stops in Germany, Thailand, China, Malaysia, Canada and Mexico.
The first women's major of the season, the newly-named ANA Inspiration at Rancho Mirage, California, will be held from April 2-5.
The KPMG Women's PGA Championship at Westchester, New York takes place from June 11-14 with the U.S. Women's Open to be played at Lancaster Country Club in Lancaster, Pennsylvania from July 9-12.
Turnberry in Scotland will host the Women's British Open from July 30-August 2 before the fifth and final major of the year, the Evian Championship, is staged in Evian-les-Bains in France from September 10-13.
The 2015 LPGA Tour will offer a total purse of $61.6 million, an increase of just over $4 million from this year.
Despite living abroad for much of her life, Beck is a proud Israeli and she is hoping to represent the country at Rio 2016 when golf makes its return to the Olympic Games.
"I never really lived somewhere for a long period of time, I lived in Belgium, then Israel and then the states and I think it has helped me to meet different people," explained Beck. "I really like that I am unique and I can tell people my story.”
"My main goal is to represent my county. I’m just very proud to represent my country and I have a lot of support."Reuters contributed to this report.